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Peter specialises in research focusing on materials, making, manufacturing, luxury goods and artworks.

Peter has undertaken research on the fine jewellery and luxury watch industries and their supply chains for the past thirteen years. His interests range from gaining an understanding of how the sector as a whole operates as a diverse but interlocking professional community, to examining specific phenomena linked to its distinctive material culture. These include: the geographic and social circulation of gold; the current and historic roles of precious metal assaying and hallmarking; and the recent growth and impact of the idea of ethical gold.

Over the past five years he has been part of a long-term initiative to assist Thai rural craft weavers, most recently through the creation of resources that will support more sustainable material sourcing. From 2015 to 2018 he conducted ethnographic research on the adoption of digital technologies in the UK's ceramics industry. In 2019 he undertook multiple field visits in China to research traditional crafts, Shanghai's contemporary art sector, and the repurposing of industrial heritage sites in Shanghai and Jingdezhen. In the same year he also travelled to Kazakhstan to meet local craft workers.

Since joining the RCA in 2012, Peter has been a member of a School Leadership Team and the RCA's Research Committee, as well as serving terms as an elected member of the RCA Senate and RCA Court. His wider academic activities include membership of the AHRC's Peer Review College and ResearchFish's Steering Board.

He is currently leading three research projects: Sustainable Materials in the Creative Industries (SMICI); Ethical Gold & Government Policy (EG+GP), and Thai Textiles. He is also leading the UK contribution to 4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture, a Creative Europe transnational cooperation project.

Research projects


More information

Peter specialises in research focusing on materials, making, manufacturing, luxury goods and artworks.

His current leading research topics are:

  • Sustainable and ethical material sourcing initiatives
  • The materiality and agency of artists’ materials
  • Traditional craft techniques and contemporary practice.

He also has a long-term professional interest in:

  • The cultural and social relevance of luxury goods
  • The materialisation, analysis and classification of colour
  • Processes of material analysis and their technical and social impact
  • The adoption and exploitation of innovative manufacturing technologies
  • The preservation and presentation or repurposing of industrial heritage sites.

Thai Textiles (2019–2021)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA GCRF Development Scheme

An international research project identifying how locally sourced, sustainable raw materials can be more effectively and profitably utilised in Thai rural craft weaving.

Industrial Heritage in Shanghai (2019)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA GCRF Development Scheme

The project explored the re-purposing of industrial buildings to house cultural institutions in Shanghai & Jingdezhen & how this activity compares to similar Western practices.

Art Fair Innovations (2019)

Role: Co-Investigator

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

This project unpacked issues relating to the delivery of the West Bund Art & Design Fair, one of Shanghai's main arts events.

Ethical Gold in Scotland (2018–2020)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Special Projects Fund

An examination of the impact of ethical gold campaigns & certification initiatives in Scotland through fieldwork with practitioners, lecturers & institutions.

TECHNE Scholarship (2018–2021)

Role: Primary Supervisor & bid writing support

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council through TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership

The TECHNE scholarship was awarded to support Eni Bankole-Race's PhD project - Resplendence: Aso-oke and the Importance of Strategic Sartoriality in Yoruban Culture.

Fair Luxury at the RCA (2018)

Role: Event Convener and Project Manager

Funder: RCA GCRF Development Scheme

Fair Luxury at the RCA was an industry-academia crossover conference, focusing on ethical sourcing in the jewellery industry. Speakers included ethical mining certifiers, jewellery practitioners, gem traders, and academics researching artisanal and small-scale mining.

4Cs: From Conflict to Conviviality through Creativity and Culture (2017–2021)

Role: RCA Project Manager

Funder: European Commission through EACEA Creative Europe.

A transnational project exploring how training & education in art & culture can reflect on, & respond to, conflict through audience participation & co-production.

Improved Laser Printing Equipment for Ceramics (2017–2018)

Role: Co-Investigator

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

Prototyping design improvements for current ceramic laser printing machines & identifying technical specifications for the next generation of printing equipment.

Erasmus+ Staff Placement (2017)

Role: Host Sponsor and Placement Organiser.

Funder: EACEA Erasmus grants for staff or teaching mobility

Dr Antonella Camarda, lecturer at the University of Sassari and Director of the Nivola Museum, undertook a two week placement as a tutor at the RCA.

Pressed Aluminium Innovations Pilot Project (2016–2017)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Research Development Fund

Funding to scope the potential of crossovers between studio silversmithing & industrial press-forming processes.

ArcInTex European Training Network (2015–2018)

Role: RCA Participant Contact

Funder: European Commission through H2020-MSCA-ITN.

The ArcInTex consortium supported 15 PhD students researching intersections between textiles, interactive design & architecture.

Extending the Potential of the Digitally Printed Ceramic Surface (2015–2017)

Role: Co-Investigator

Funder: Arts & Humanities Research Council

An exploration of the commercial potential of digital printing for decorating high-value ceramics, including identifying social & technical barriers to adoption.

Materialising Time (2014)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Research Development Fund

Field research in Geneva to support an analysis of the development of the wristwatch as a luxury good.

Contrived Dereliction (2013)

Role: Principal Investigator

Funder: RCA Research Development Fund

Utilising fieldwork at mining heritage sites in North America and Europe, the project developed the concept of ‘contrived dereliction’ as a presentation strategy.

Academic Journal Articles

Oakley, P. (2018) ‘After Mining: contrived dereliction, dualistic time and the moment of rupture in the presentation of mining heritage’, Extractive Industries and Society Vol.5 No.2.

Oakley, P. (2017) ‘Is Gold Jewelry Money?’ Social Analysis Vol.61 No.4.

Oakley, P. (2015) ‘Ticking Boxes: (re)constructing the wristwatch as a luxury object’, Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption, Vol.1, No.2.


Crimmin, M. & Oakley, P. (2020) This Is No Longer That Place: a handbook on the events. London: Royal College of Art.

Book Chapters

Oakley, P. (2020) ‘Is Gold Jewelry Money?’ in: Sandy Ross and Mario Scmidt (eds), Money Counts: Revisiting Economic Calculation: New York & Oxford: Berghahn.

Oakley, P. (2015) ‘Introducing Fairtrade and Fairmined Gold: An attempt to reconfigure the social identity of a substance’, in: Adam Drazin and Susanne Kuechler (eds), The Social Life of Materials, London: Bloomsbury.

Oakley, P. (2015) ‘A Permanent State of Decay: Contrived dereliction at heritage mining sites’, in: Hilary Orange (ed.), Reanimating Industrial Spaces. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Oakley, P. (2014) 'Contrived Dereliction: Employing an aesthetic of decay at mining heritage sites', in: Mike Robinson et al (eds.) Cultural Heritage and Tourism Vol.2: Engagement and Experience. Taipei: Farterng Culture CO.

Oakley, P. & Küchler,S. (2013) ‘New Materials and their Impact on the Material World’, in: Penny Harvey, Eleanor Casella, Gillian Evans, Hannah Knox, Christine McLean, Elizabeth B. Silva, Nicholas Thoburn, Kath Woodward (eds), Objects and Materials: A Routledge Companion, London: Routledge.

Oakley, P. (2013) ‘Containing Precious Metals: the material consequences of hallmarking in modern and medieval England’, in: Hans Peter Hahn and Hadas Weis (eds), Mobility, Meaning and Transformations of Things: Shifting contexts of material culture through time and space, Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Oakley, P. (2008) ‘Praxeological Subjectification: the hidden power of practical activities’, in: Kate Hatton (ed.), Design Pedagogy Research, Huddersfield: Jeremy Mills.

Published Conference Papers

Oakley, P. (2019) ‘Ethical Gold: Why Manufacturing Methods Matter’. The Goldsmiths’ Company Jewellery Materials Congress, https://www.assayofficelondon.co.uk/events/the-goldsmiths-company-jewellery-materials-congress

Oakley, P. (2018) ‘Creating a Brighter Future? Responses to the commercialisation of a new ceramic print technology’. Making Futures, Vol.5.

Oakley, P. (2016) ‘Digital Crafting: Defining the Field in 2015’, Making Futures, Vol.4.

Oakley, P. (2015) 'Digital Crafting: Re-evaluating Promises and Pitfalls' (English text with full Korean translation). In: Making Futures Korea: Craft, meeting the new through changes in perception. Cheongju: Cheongju International Craft Biennale Committee.

Oakley, P. (2014) ‘Crafting with Digital Technologies: issues in practice’, Making Futures, Vol.3

Working Reports

Dare, E., Simmons, T., Ramanathan, R. and Oakley, P. (2019) Crafting Futures: Scoping visit reports and proposals for pilot projects in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan


Oakley, P. (2019) Material Disciplines in the Shanghai Art World. AFI Report No.2. http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/4007

Overseas Academic Presentations

‘The Value(s) of Thai Craft Textiles in the 21st Century’, presented jointly with Dr Wuthigrai Siriphon. Part of the Re-thinking Creative Economy Through Fashion in Asia panel at the AAS-in-Asia 2020 Conference, delivered online from Kobe, 2 Sept 2020.

‘Digital Printing for Ceramics’. Seminar delivered to the Industrial Craft programme at Thammasat University’s Lampang Campus in Northern Thailand, 4 Dec 2019.

‘Combining Materials and Concepts: the case of ceramics in Western art’. Seminar delivered to Shanghai Centre of Public Art faculty, Shanghai University, 22 May 2019.

‘Moving Ideals: the international migration of responsible mining and ethical sourcing principles in the early twenty-first century’. Presentation given as part of the Mining Mobility panel at the 15th EASA Biennial Conference, Stockholm, 14-7 Aug 2018.

‘Preserving Past Mines in the Present: mining heritage management, contrived dereliction and non-linear time’, delivered at the European Association of Social Anthropologists Anthropology of Mining Network workshop, University of Utrecht, 20-21 July 2017.

‘Towards A Brighter Future: The risks and rewards of new ceramic print technology’. Presentation delivered at ISSSM 2017, Sapporo, 17 Jan 2017.

‘Representing Geevor: linear progress vs the singular moment in the presentation of mining heritage’. Presentation given as part of the Mining Temporalities panel, 14th EASA Biennial Conference, Milan, 22 July 2016.

‘Intelligent Making at the RCA’. Seminar delivered to the Arts Faculty, California State University Long Beach (CSULB), Los Angeles, California, 12 April 2016.

'Digital Crafting: Re-evaluating Promises and Pitfalls'. Delivered as part of Making Futures: Korea conference, part of the 2015 Cheongju International Craft Biennale, Cheongju, 10 Oct 2015.

‘Crafting with Digital Technologies’. Keynote presentation for Craft 2.0, a session at Making Futures: Beijing, part of Beijing Design Festival, Dashilar Hutong, Beijing, 28 Sept 2014.

‘Gold Jewellery as Money: the covert social identity of a class of object’. Presentation given at the Value and Equivalence workshop, Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt, 30 Nov 2013.

'Contrived Dereliction: employing an aesthetic of decay at mining heritage sites'. Delivered at Tourism and the Shifting Values of Cultural Heritage, a conference organised by the University of Birmingham, National Taipei University of Education and National Taiwan University, Taipei, 8 April 2013.

‘Containing Gold: institutional attempts to define and constrict the values of precious metal objects’, Itineraries of the Material conference, Goethe Universitaet, Frankfurt, 7 Oct 2011.

Industry Presentations

Presenter at the Jewellery Materials Congress, convened by the London Assay Office. Held at Goldsmiths’ Hall, London, 9 July 2019.

Presenter at Its In Our Hands - One Year On, Edinburgh, convened by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths. Held at the Drill Hall, Edinburgh, 28 March 2018.

Panel moderator for the Jewellery Industry Panel at FLUX 2017, convened by Fair Luxury and held at the Birmingham Assay Office, 26 April 2017.

Presenter at Ethical Making for the 21st Century, convened by The Incorporation of Goldsmiths. Held at the University of Dundee, 7 Feb 2017.

Plenary Panel Member for Harnessing Extractive Industries for Development in sub-Saharan Africa workshop, convened by Surrey Business School. Held at the University of Surrey, Guildford, 10 June 2016.

Panel Member for ‘Ethical Issues and Initiatives’, at Flux: Fair Luxury. Convened by Fair Luxury. Held at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, London, 19 April 2016.

Panel Moderator for ‘Sustainable Materials for the Common Good’, a breakout session at the 4th Sustainable Luxury Forum. Held in Geneva, 6 Feb 2015.

Panel Moderator for ‘Sustainable Luxury Innovation: exploring a multi-dimensional terrain’, a breakout session at the 3rd Sustainable Luxury Forum. Held in Geneva, 18-19 June 2013.

Public Presentations

‘The Value(s) of Crafting in the 21st Century’. Public presentation given at the Thailand Creative and Design Centre, Bangkok, 28 Sept 2019.

‘Innovation, Appropriation, Acculturation’. Public lecture given as part of the International Awards for Art Criticism 6 launch event, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, 24 May, 2019.

Co-Presenter of ‘The Order of Colour’. A public presentation of selected holdings in the RCA Colour Reference Library and related research projects, co-delivered with Neil Parkinson, RCA Archives and Collections Manager. Part of Chemfest 2019, London, 10 April 2019.

Introductory Speaker and panel moderator for ‘Materials Reborn?’ convened by the Arts Foundation as part of COLLECT 2015. Held at the Saatchi Gallery, London, 10 May 2015.

Advisory Roles

Advisor for Wooden Reed Making of the ethnic Lao Khrang in Thailand (A British Museum Endangered Material Knowledge Programme funded project).

Advisor for The Incorporation of Goldsmiths’ Ethical Making Resource.

Advisor for the British Council report: Empowerment of Women and Girls through Craft, Digital Technology and Entrepreneurship in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 2017.

Steering Group member for the Craft Council report: Innovation through Craft: Opportunities for Growth, 2015-2016.

Editorial Advisory Board member for Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption.

Advisory Board member for the Geneva-based Sustainable Luxury Forum, 2013-2015.

Specialist Panel member for the FLO Fairtrade Gold certification standard review, 2012.

UKRI Support Activities

Member of the AHRC Peer Review College.

Member of the ResearchFish Steering Board.

Professional Association Memberships

Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institution (RAI)

Member of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

Member of the Society for the History of Alchemy & Chemistry (SHAC)

Member of the Society of Jewellery Historians (SJH)

Member of the Association of Research Managers & Assistants (ARMA)

Research Group Memberships

European Association of Social Anthropologists’ Anthropology of Mining Network

Association for the discussion of History of Chemistry (AD HOC)

LabUK’s Fashioning Material Britain Research Group

Associate member of the Winchester Luxury Research Group